Patient living with carpal tunnel turns to experts at OrthoKansas for care
Sally Hubbell’s right hand had been bothering her for some time, though she was able to function with the discomfort she felt. When her other hand began to fall asleep and pain started shooting up her arm, she knew something was really wrong.
“It got to the point where my pain level was at a 20 and was keeping me awake. It was awful,” she said. “I talked with a number of different people – especially my daughter who is an occupational therapist – and they all said the same thing. It was time for me to get this looked at.”
Though she lives in Topeka, Hubbell turned to the experts at OrthoKansas for answers. The recommendation to seek out help from Neal Lintecum, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery, came from a friend of the family.
“Carol Ryan is one of the occupational therapists who works with Dr. Lintecum. We’ve been friends for years, even living with us for three months when she was doing her practicum, so I knew I’d be in great hands,” she said.
Patients in the region benefit from quicker access to care through OrthoKansas partnerships with area hospitals, including Holton Community Hospital, where Dr. Lintecum sees patients once each month. Hubbell was able to secure an appointment quickly and made the 40 minute drive to Holton’s outpatient clinic. She said that Dr. Lintecum ran her through tests to see what hurt and determine the next steps.
“Dr. Lintecum listened to what I said, including my symptoms and how badly I hurt, and he pretty much knew what would happen at that point,” Hubbell said. “I left my appointment knowing that I was finally going to have some relief.”
Sanjeev Kumar, MD
The next step in Hubbell’s treatment was to undergo an electromyography nerve test (EMG) with Sanjeev Kumar, MD, at Lawrence Neurology Specialists. The test, which lasts for about an hour, is used to measure the electrical activity of muscles at rest and when being used. Dr. Kumar explained that it begins by placing electrodes on the skin over the muscle that’s supplied by the nerve being studied. As an electrical shock is applied, the activity picked up by the electrodes is displayed as waveforms on the computer display and recorded.
“The second portion of the test is performed by placing a small needle in different muscles of the arm to look for nerve or muscle disease and to gauge the severity of the problem,” he said. “The EMG allows us to check for muscle or nerve issues such as a pinched nerve or for carpal tunnel syndrome, the entrapment of the median nerve at the wrist. In Sally’s case, the test showed that she had moderate to severe bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.”
Hubbell shared that though the test was a bit painful, she was blown away by the care Dr. Kumar and his team provided.
“I can’t get over the way that everyone kept explaining what they were doing. I went into the test not knowing what to expect and they answered my questions and made sure I was as comfortable as I could be throughout the process,” she said.
Surgery is on the menu
When the team at OrthoKansas received the results of Hubbell’s EMG, it didn’t take long for Dr. Lintecum to diagnose what he’d suspected all along – that she was living with carpal tunnel syndrome.
The “carpal tunnel” is a narrow passageway that runs from the base of the hand through the wrist. Several tendons and the median nerve, which controls our sense of touch in the palm and fine movement in the thumb, pass through the carpal tunnel.
When any of those tendons become irritated or other swelling encroaches on the space within the tunnel, the median nerve can become compressed. This may cause symptoms ranging from tingling and numbness in the fingers to pain that radiates up the arm.
Neal Lintecum, MD
“Based on Sally’s symptoms and the findings of her EMG, she was an appropriate candidate for surgery,” Dr. Lintecum said. “Therapy is a great option for some conditions, one that can get you relief and often times save you from needing surgery, unfortunately it’s not usually for patients with carpal tunnel.”
Hubbell shared that surgery was recommended for both hands, as the one that hurt the most really wasn’t the worst. The procedure to repair both took place in January 2022 at the Lawrence Surgery Center, located at the LMH Health West Campus.
At the West Campus, patients are in the driver’s seat, with access to convenient, collaborative and innovative care all under one roof. The Surgery Center, designed exclusively to perform outpatient surgery, provides the surgeons at OrthoKansas with the technology and facilities to provide care that’s not only exceptional for a community hospital – it’s among the best anywhere.
“I think the campus is the Taj Mahal,” Hubbell said. “From the time I walked in, the greeters made you feel welcome. Registration was efficient and the way the facility is laid out is amazing. You don’t have to go outside to get anywhere. It’s everything you’d like to see.”
Her surgery was performed endoscopically, where Dr. Lintecum used an endoscope – a tube with a camera attached to it – to perform the procedure through a small incision in the wrist. Endoscopic surgery can allow you to have a faster recovery and less post-operative discomfort.
Hubbell said that while she was at the surgery center, she was overwhelmed by the care that the team showed.
“They didn’t just leave me by myself when I was there. One of the other doctors, one who wasn’t part of my team, came in to see me and ask how I was doing. That interest and care for how I was doing was just wonderful,” she said.
Following her procedure, Hubbell’s pain wasn’t as bad as she anticipated. She was able to use her hands for what she needed to do, with a few limitations, and after three days she removed her bandages, curious to see what the incisions looked like.
“Keeping the incisions clean and dry for three days is the only restriction we place on many of our patients. We can get people back to exercise or work pretty quickly,” Dr. Lintecum said.
The final verdict? Hubbell shared that she’s doing very well following her surgery. She’s recommending the experts at OrthoKansas to those she knows who need care.
“I’ve told everyone about OrthoKansas,” she said. “I’ve told my brother, my friends and neighbors – anyone who might need help. When you need a specialist, it pays to go to OrthoKansas.”
If you’re concerned about symptoms you’re experiencing, including functional limitation or pain that keeps you from sleeping, make an appointment with either your primary care physician or call OrthoKansas for an evaluation.
“We’ve got experts at OrthoKansas that are trained as well as anyone in the country and are board certified in their specialties and subspecialties,” Dr. Lintecum said. “We’ve got outstanding therapy to address any need you may have. We have the facilities to provide you care and imaging capabilities and expertise that are unmatched in the state. Come in and let us help you with your musculoskeletal care.”